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Egress windows - Your must-have safety addition to a finished basement

In most American homes, an egress window is not a whim but a necessity regulated by fire safety standards. It offers escape routes that get family members out to safety when the front and back doors are not the options. This operable unit is usually installed in basements and serves as a surefire alternative exit in an emergency. However, not every egress window is created equal. Those meant to be used as escape routes should have a large opening and be fully operable to provide enough space for first responders to get inside. This article is created to provide you with the most encompassing egress windows definition. Keep reading to increase awareness of these life-saving window units commonly installed in basements and upper floors.

Egress windows - Your must-have safety addition to a finished basement

What is an egress window?

All windows designed for escape can be called egress. For instance, casement, double-hung, and skylight units are approved by the IRC to be installed in homes for fire safety purposes. These are fully functioning windows with large openings that are easy to access and climb out of in case of a fire, flooding, or any other unforeseen situation. 

The International Building Code advises the egress windows to be installed in every bedroom and basement. They offer a reliable secondary exit while adding more natural light into the room. Some states make these windows mandatory to install, even in unfinished basements. 

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What are the types of egress windows?

When searching for the right escape windows for your home, consider that different types of units fall into this category. Every window that follows the minimum criteria for size and clearance can serve as egress. 

Here are a few main options for egress window installation:

  • Casement egress windows. These units feature a few hinges at the side and operate just like a door, swinging in and out. They are equipped with a handle and a hand crank that ensures their smooth operation and allows them to be opened wide. They meet the rigid egress requirements but still have a smaller size. These units are one of the most popular for basement and bathrooms as they work well in small rooms and ensure proper ventilation while not occupying much space. 
  • Awning egress windows. This type of out-swinging window is equipped with a hinge at the top, tilting outward to open. As awning windows usually come with a smaller opening space than other egress windows, you should check their dimensions carefully to meet the IRC requirements. The minimum allowed width is 36 to 48 inches and 23 to 36 inches tall. 
  • Single-hung egress windows. These units have a stationary and an operable sash that moves up and down, promoting room ventilation. As single-hung windows come without a hinge, you don't need to worry about the extra clearance required for a swinging sash. To ensure they comply with the IRC, get units that are at least 24 inches tall and 34 inches wide.
  • Double-hung egress windows. These windows come with two big panes of glass and zero hinges. Both sashes can be raised and lowered, which ensures smooth operation, an unobscured view, and good ventilation. Double-hung egress windows have to be large enough to meet the IRC requirements. The space to be allowed for their installation should be not less than 28 inches to 60 inches wide and 23 to 60 inches high. 
  • Sliding egress windows. These units of egress type are built without hinges. They slide horizontally along tracks, ensuring enough opening for ample airflow and an escape route in case of a fire. Nevertheless, only those sliding units that are at least 40 inches wide and 41 inches high comply with the IRC guidelines. 

Egress windows installation with IRC codes in mind

International Residential Code laws rigidly regulate the egress window sizes as they play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of home inhabitants in case of emergency. They require a basement window to be large enough to allow fully-equipped firefighters to get inside the home. 

A standard egress unit should be fully operable and have a clear opening of at least 5.7 square feet. If a window is placed more than 44 inches from the ground, it's required to add a ladder or steps at least 12 inches wide. 

If you're looking to replace the existing egress windows, consider installing replacement units larger than the originals. In most cases, they will fit in a pre-existing frame. 

If you're about to install egress windows from scratch, get ready for a complicated project that requires carpentry experience. First, cut the hole in the basement wall for a future window. Then, get the opening ready for installing the window by properly framing it. And finally, mount the new unit in a pre-arranged opening. An egress window you are installing should meet the minimum height and width criteria (20 in. x 24 in.).

Please note that basement window installation below ground requires good drainage to prevent basement flooding and the home's structure ruining. 

How much does an egress window cost?

Getting an egress window installed in the basement is definitely a costly affair as the process itself requires much effort and time (2 to 3 days at a minimum). The national average cost of an egress window is $3.400. The sum can be higher or lower depending on the window type and size, its arrangement, and frame material. Thus, the lowest-end cost is $2.350 while the higher-end one is $3.100. Plus, add the egress window installation costs that vary from state to state but are usually equal to $450 - $700 per project. If you need to excavate the egress window exit, add at least $200 to the total cost.

If you want to learn the average egress window costs in your region, leave your request on the HomeQuote platform. We unite certified window professionals from all over the country in our contractors' network to meet and exceed the requirements of every client. 

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